Gainesville to discuss charter officers, amendment

City of Gainesville City Hall sign
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission will tackle a crowded agenda on Thursday as items trickle forward from the commission’s canceled meeting on May 19. 

The city stopped the regular meeting after three commissioners tested positive for COVID-19, including Mayor Lauren Poe,  the weekend before. Many items moved forward to the General Policy Meeting on May 26, and others are present on Thursday’s agenda. 

GPD Cadet Program 

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The Gainesville Police Department (GPD), along with Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) and Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), will present a joint program to the commission for funding. The program would cost $625,921 for two years and looks to generate more employees for the organizations. 

Called CADET: Community Action via Development Education and Training, the pre-apprenticeship program aims to help youth and young adults obtain a foundation for a career in one of the three organizations while also assisting with special community engagement projects and creating a greater sense of community. 

GNV charter amendment

The commission discussed an amendment in February that will allow more efficiency when replacing a vacant spot on the dias. The proposed amendment would have given the city commission the ability to vote someone to the seat if a regularly scheduled election was more than six months away. 

The commissioners rejected this proposal but directed staff to continue looking at ways to prevent expensive special elections. The discussion began after former commissioner Gail Johnson resigned in August 2021

Even with an extra month of notice, the Supervisor’s of Election office struggled to hold the special election and following runoff within the parameters of Gainesville’s charter. The elections also cost the city $200,000 each. 

Currently, a special election is required within 60 days if the next regular election is more than six months away. The remaining commissioners may install an interim commissioner if the regular election is less than six months away.

The commission will discuss other options like extending the required 60 day period to hold a special election. Any option that would change the city charter needs six of the seven commissioners to agree and must also be ratified by the voters on the next ballot. 

FDOT autonomous vehicle program 

FDOT wants to extend its contract for Phase II of its autonomous bus program in Gainesville by two months, ending in September 2022 instead of July. 

The program began in 2017 with Phase I and reached the second phase in 2021. 

8th Avenue and Waldo Road sports facility study

The commission will discuss hiring a third party to conduct a feasibility and pro forma study on creating a sports complex at the corner of 8th Avenue and Waldo Road—the current location of Citizens Field and the MLK Jr. Multipurpose Center. 

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut brought up the project in late April, and the board was set to discuss it on May 19 before the city canceled the meeting because of COVID-19 cases. The project got moved to the city’s General Policy Committee on May 26 but was removed the day before. 

Chestnut, who missed the agenda review to be with her husband in the hospital, said she hadn’t been notified that both her items had been taken off the agenda. 

“Offended is not the appropriate word. I was deeply hurt that you would take such action in my absence,” Chestnut said at the start of the meeting. 

GNV charter officers story

Chestnut also requested an update on the four interim charter officers as part of the May 26 meeting. While the commission added the item back to the agenda, the commission didn’t want to move forward on a vote to make all interim officers permanent until the mayor was present.  

The commission on Thursday is slated to discuss the progress reports from the four interims, and the commissioners could direct the mayor to enter into permanent contract negotiations.


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